National Deworming Day in India
The National Deworming Day is observed on February 10 by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and its main objective is to deworm children in the 1 to 19 years’ age group, at schools and anganwadi centres. The Government of India had launched the phase 1 of the National Deworming Day in 2015.
In one of the country's largest single day public health initiative, an estimated 34 crore children will be administered deworming tablets to reduce worm infestation that impacts physical and intellectual growth.
The early years of a child are the most critical and significant. Worm infections at this age can cause anaemia, malnourishment, impaired mental and physical development which is a serious threat to child’s health, his ability to learn and overall productivity. According to a study, infected children cannot concentrate on their studies and find it difficult to even manage their daily activities.
Burden of the infection in India:
According to World Health Organization(WHO), India has the highest burden of Soil-Transmitted Helminths (STH) in the world, with 220 million children aged between 1 to 14 years are at the risk of worm infections.
What are Soil-Transmitted Helminths (STHs):
According to World Health Organization, Soil-Transmitted Helminths (STH) are parasitic worms that live in human intestines and consume nutrients meant for the human body. They produce thousands of eggs each day, which are passed in faeces and spread in areas where people use public toilets.
Deworming tablet and dosage:
Children in the age group of 1 to 2 years are given half a tablet of Albendazole, and those in the age group of 2 and above are given 1 full tablet of Albendazole to chew. Albendazole is a very safe drug and has very few side effects.
Issues raised about the program and solutions:
- Concerns were raised that the government has been deworming children only in government schools and private schools were left out. To resolve this the government is trying to cover private schools as well, but since this is the first year 100 per cent coverage in private schools may not be possible
- Complaints of stomach ache and vomiting among children were reported from various states. Health experts say that any drug has some side effects associated with it. In specific cases where the worm load is very high it can lead to vomiting, stomach ache etc.
- Adverse drug reaction monitoring centres have been established across the country and states are instructed to contact these centres.
- The issue of coverage has been addressed as the government has completed mapping in all states based on the worm load.
The cycle of parasitic infections cannot be broken with drugs alone. Proper hand washing and sanitation play a significant role in preventing such diseases. Linking the program with open defecation free status will provide better results, as worm infestation is directly linked to open defecation.